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Old 11-21-2011, 09:36 AM   #166
ERIC DN
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C'est bon j'ai rattrappé le retard de lecture, tu peux repartir ( It's ok I made up for lost time of reading, you can set out again ).



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Old 11-23-2011, 08:18 AM   #167
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Originally Posted by rattis View Post
A nonstop read makes me pining for a trip like that, awesome and most enjoyable indeed.
A down to earth question, if you don't mind, what's the budget for a trip like yours?
Hmmm.. good question. I'm pretty bad at tracking this. I think I'm down about 15k euros after a bit more than 1 year. But it depends so much on what you do, it's hard to draw a conclusion. Other people have done a very precise rundown on the different costs, you may want to search a little around.
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Old 11-24-2011, 11:53 AM   #168
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So WTF this 3-months gap ? well, when I arrived I barely made it before the rains came in in force. In the Equatorial Africa, the rains are something to behold: stops during the afternoon, but the sheer quantity of water that falls down renders all but the tar roads quite impassable by bike. The roads around Douala/Yahounde are OK, but as you go north, the laterite turns into a mud nightmare. The trucks still ply the roads, but with enormous delays. I haven't come here just to cross to the next country on proper roads, I want to explore the northern, wilder part of the country. The timing is then just wrong, but then it was right for the south of equator: DRC, Congo, Gabon. The weather pattern reverses as you cross the equator, it's easy to figure out on the animation I put together there:

http://overlanding-tracks.appspot.com

The rains easy at the end of October, so I shoot for mid-November as my next window (as it turns out, I will come back just 2 weeks after the end of the rainy season). In between, I fly back to France to meet up with my girlfriend, enjoy the great summer in souther France and travel around: I won't bore you with pictures of Europe, just to say that although Stelvio is the most amazing pass in the Alps, doing it in August is plain silly. Loads of bikers come over here just for that, but it probably wasn't more fun for the guy on the GSXR-1000 than it was for us in a diesel Kangoo, as you're hopelessly stuck in a slow-moving continuous stream of cars and RVs. Bikers, come here in October (put a sweater on) and enjoy it!

Besides the good fun, it was also a useful pit stop after one year on the road. After 1 year, I had only 10 pages left in my passport, it seems a bit short for what laid ahead, so to avoid the hassle of doing it in an African embassy, and being stuck there for weeks, I ordered a new one for a hefty 140€. I digress, but I didn't expect that the biometric information on the passport must be renewed. I can still hear the stupid Swiss-German lady at the consulate: "what if your fingerprints have changed since last time ?". Duh!

Of course I also need to get a new Cameroon visa (100€ again, I sure hope the new swimming pool of the president is coming along nicely..). The French cameroon consulate requires a ton of documents, work certificate, taxes declaration, LOI, return airplane ticket, etc.. Like they needed to fight illegal French immigrants wanting to take advantage of the high wages and generous social benefits of Cameroon. Actually, I understand this more as "retaliation" against similar requirements by the French embassy for Cameroon nationals. Because they do not ask anything in Congo, where people actually could be willing to immigrate to Cameroon for work. I had the LOI from my hosts in Douala, a return ticket the other way around, and no work certificate, of course, so I was a bit nervous. But they gave me the visa anyway, pffew.

Then I had a list of spare parts to bring back, and avoid the expensive DHL costs and the usually huge import taxes:
- fork seals to fix the fork leg that's started to leak in DRC. Don't leave without a spare set. And fork oil, I'm not sure what they put in those Chinese bikes over here. I'll do a complete overhaul of both forks, it couldn't hurt after 50'000 km.
- boot-exhaust protection, the original plastic one broke, and I was burning my shoes. I would have fixed something locally, but the Touratech aluminum one is not so expensive, so here we go.
- same for the chain guard. I had glued together the plastic one too often, I'm bringing a Touratech expensive aluminum farkle.
- a new rear tyre. The current one has 25% remaining so I'll carry the new one for a while. TKC 80 is wearing out fast, but the grip is good the dirt. Good compromise for the tricky roads ahead. The front one is still pretty good.
- a new petrol stove. My MSR dragonfly had failed in Gabon, no cleaning could bring it back to life. I'm not too surprised as they don't have a good reputation of reliability. MSR France isn't responding, I'll try the US directly, int he mean time I get a Whisperlite which I had used before, a much simpler design that's bomb-proof.
- exchange my plastic hard cases for soft bags. Not because they're broken, they're incredibly sturdy, and only scratched after numerous falls, but they never quite fit on the rack after I had been run over in Mozambique. It's the metal that gets bent out of shape, the plastic flexes and regains its original shape. So I've opted for a pair of Wolfman expedition dry saddle bags, a bit smaller which should also help with the weight issue. I'll have to modify the rack for this to work, but nothing too bad.
- un new tank bag, Wolman express, to replace the shitty Touratech that's gone beyond repair. Fits better, will see how it works.

One thing I skipped was the renewal of my carnet: 230€ for a new piece of paper, who are we kidding here ? I mostly won't need it, only Senegal may require it. But nobody notices the expiration date, so it is an acceptable gamble.

All of this plus lots of presents for my Cameroon hosts means about 35 kg of baggage. It should be OK as for Africa you get an allowance of 2x 23 kg. Except that the obnoxious Air Maroc clerk insisted that every bag should be less than 23 kg.. and asked for 100€ to let go the one that weighed 29 kg. I gave her a verbal middle finger, and proceeded to unpack the bags in the middle of the airport lobby (note that a 150-wide tyre quite nicely fits into a Sharp LCD shipping box), and repack them at 22.9kg and 13kg each, which checked in all right. Assholes.

Note that they also had canceled my flight and rescheduled me for the next day, but keeping the first leg Marseille-Casablanca on the original date, so it would have meant a 1 day stopover in Casa if I hadn't double-checked it myself at the Royal Air Maroc offices in Marseille. Morons.

Anyway, after a 12-hours journey to Douala (with an extra stop over at Yahoundé, a 3-hours drive from Douala, wtf?), at least they haven't lost my stuff. The customs guys are a little interested by my TV box, but after opening it and asking what's the tyre, they're too sleepy to hassle me and let me go (the advantage to arrive at 4AM). At that time it's also pretty quiet and it's easy to fight off the few taxi drivers waiting there. Pascal had woken up in the middle of the night to give me a ride back. Which is unusually quick because that's about the only time of the day (night) when one can drive in Douala without being hopelessly stuck in massive traffic jams.

Back at the Tabie's, I get a solid 1 hour of sleep before the kids arrive and wake me up. I had forgotten that I'm living in a school, back in July when I arrived it was during the holiday! I cool it off during the day (well, in the low 30s with 100% humidity it's a bit of a stretch, but beer does help) and wait for Saturday when the kids are at home to start taking my bike apart.

It's good to be back in Africa!

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Old 11-24-2011, 12:17 PM   #169
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The fork

It's Saturday morning, The school yard is quiet, and it's time to work on my bike. I'll start by replacing both fork seals. Only one is shot, but it's probably only time before the second one gives in.



The main problem will be to keep the environment clean, which is not obvious as I'm working on the floor and sand is everywhere.


The leaked oil has made a big mess, I'll also replace those brake pads since they've been soaked.





Getting the fork apart is pretty easy if you unscrew the fork top bolt when it's still in the clamps.



Of course, it ain't pretty. I'll have to make sure I wipe off all the sand. The leg is almost dry, I get out only a third as much oil as in the other one.



Ok, that wasn't so hard actually. But it took a little time as it's the first time I do it, and want to make sure I understand how to put it back together - although I have brought the Hayes manual.



I get some help from Franck, who is a bike fanatic.



The second one goes off. Now time to put it back together. After a beer, I mean.

For the curious, I put a mix of SAE 7.5 and SAE 10 and leave a 70 mm air gap. I go for a ride and it feels great. I just hope that there's no sand in there ot I'll have a problem in a few 100 kms..!

Now for the rest: weld a bar across the rack to hold the saddle bags



When looking for a welder, pick one who's got a welding mask or glasses. If he uses shades, look elsewhere.



Fixing my spare inner tube, note the ingenious use of an iron.



While I was waiting for my tube, I watched those guys hook up a semi-bike!



New shiny chain guard...



.. and boot protection. Nice and shiny. For now.
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Old 11-24-2011, 12:18 PM   #170
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Found your RR and caught up with your trip a few weeks ago. Great stuff. Also liked your videos of the Asia trip, especially the mix of the Pakistani/Indian parade with the music video. Looking forward to the next leg of your trip. I bet it feels strange going back on the trip after "vacation" in France.


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Quite a useful link, both border and weather info. But why is the border between Belgium and Luxembourg marked as Very difficult / Unsafe?
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Old 11-24-2011, 12:43 PM   #171
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Quite a useful link, both border and weather info. But why is the border between Belgium and Luxembourg marked as Very difficult / Unsafe? [/QUOTE]

Belgium has been without a government for more than a year, so I assumed it's a bit like Somalia.. Seriously, I haven't spent time to update the info on boring countries!
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Old 11-24-2011, 12:52 PM   #172
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Wow
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Old 11-24-2011, 12:56 PM   #173
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Safe travels...

Safe travels... we will be following you.

Please do the same for us... just finished Africa and heading to some of the places you are going to in Balkans etc...

We are heading to Shanghai. btw ...good BMW mechanic for service at Jungle Junction in nairobi.

www.bigbiketrip.net

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Well, 2 months on the road already and here's the start of my RR. I'm stuck in Georgia, with a shitty weather that hinders my plan to go to the mountains - I'm talking about Georgia in the Caucasus, mind you, not the birth place of Coca-Cola. So why not share the start of my trip. Here's the plan. It starts in Marseille, France (I'm Swiss but live - was living - in France), and it reads clockwise.



Unlike most people "doing" Africa from here, and although I'm just 5 minutes away from a ferry to Africa, I'm not jumping for it straight away. Instead, I want to ride some countries that I've always wanted to visit. The Balkans, the Caucasus and the Arabian Peninsula. So this is going to Africa - but much more.

Also, I'm starting in summer, not the best time to cross north Africa. The plan is to follow the seasons with the Balkans in summer (hot but good weather in principle, then Turkey (probably too hot in the low plains, OK in the higher altitudes) and the high passes of the Caucasus toward the end of the summer, before hitting Iran and the Arabian peninsula in fall/winter when the temperature is more bearable.

I'll be going solo. Last trip was with a buddy, and it turned out that we split after 6 months, and the solo part was just as great. So let's avoid the awkwardness and be on my own. But as it turned out, I would be joined by a girl-friend riding pillon for one month, so that's also a nice open possibility.

About the itinerary, there are a few difficulties added, but should be doable. I'll need a carnet for Iran, but I can afford that and I definitely want to go to Iran. On the other hand, I'll give Egypt a miss, with their extortionate carnet fees, border difficulties, escort and mandatory ferries. In this plan there will be 2 sea crossing: the Persian gulf, from Iran to Dubai: there is a regular ferry line, it's been done already. And the infamous gulf of Aden, from Yemen to Djibouti. Yemen itself may turn out to be tricky, by the time I get there, the situation may be completely different from now, so this I will have to manage when I get there. But Yemen may be the highlight of the trip as well.



About the bike: I bought a brand new F800GS, with all bells and whistles. the last trip (see link in the sig for the blog) was on a Tenere, but it ended up requiring a fair bit of mechanics which - let's face it - I'm not really good at. So I'm betting on a robust bike that will get me a good way through the trip before it start to require some heavy work - Insh Allah.



By "bells and whistles" I mean the dealer threw in for free the whole package: board computer, ABS, central stand, etc.. I don't care about the first one, a bit worried about the second one, I guess only the central stand will be really useful. I'll find out if that was a mistake. On top of that, I've added a extra fuel tank (20 liters, from Touratech), expensive but pretty convenient in those remote places that I plan to visit. And a pair a Caribou cases and rack, departing from my theory of only using soft luggages for robustness. But I'll be alone, so it will be useful to be able to lock some of the more expensive items. Again, no experience with it, so it's a gamble.



As usual, way too much stuff. I ordered some knobbies to start with - but then changed my mind and decided to use the road tyres as long as possible, so I've accepted the inconvenience of carrying the tyres with me.

As it turned out, I changed them in Istanbul, to make room for my girl-friend on the rear seat. But I could have bought tyres in Istanbul so that was really unnecessary. And maybe too early, or too late, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

For those who read French, this trip's blog is in my sig. For the rest of you, I'll post the (rather uneventful so far) story and photos here.
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Old 11-24-2011, 01:05 PM   #174
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Buea

The next step is to get a visa for Nigeria, my next destination. I could have done it in Paris, but it would have been a pain to have to go there, and do it at the last minute so that it doesn't expire before I get there. There's a consulate in Buea, a short ride from Douala so that seems a better option.

I leave Douala in the usual mess of a trafic, made worse by the water-filled potholes and the millions of chinese moto-taxi trying to kill their customer.



Now of course if that's where they get their driving instructors, I'm not surprised it's so chaotic.

Buea is in the English-speaking part of the country, on the foot of Mt Cameroon. At 1000m the climate is much cooler and quite nice, although the clouds block up the view to the mountain. I get to the embassy and ask what's the paperwork: a nice guy tells me about an LOI, and as I propose to bring a hotel reservation: bingo, that should do it. I reach for the next cyber cafe, write a fake hotel reservation and come back 20 minutes later. I fill up the form, give the letter, 2 photos and 500'000 CFA. Before I can ask when I should come back, the guy leaves and comes back 5 minutes later with a sticker that he puts in my passport. Easiest visa of the trip so far!

The following country will be Niger. It seems there isn't a Niger embassy in Cameroon, but there's a consulate in Kano, that will do. If Boko Haram isn't throwing the country in chaos inbetween, that is, the last news from northern Nigeria aren't very optimistic. But for now I'm all set.

On the way back, I meet this guy who's bringing a few bananas for a snack..



.. and some pineapples for good measure.



With a reinforced chassis, he can carry more than 1 ton in his car. I just love Africa.

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Old 11-24-2011, 04:10 PM   #175
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great to see you back on the road!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 11-30-2011, 05:11 PM   #176
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Question

Hi Laurent,

First I will say this: Your RR is one of the best on ADVrider, and believe me I've read many. It's not to long, and not to short, just perfect IMO. I read it through all in one go, and am thinking of calling in sick tomorrow at work because of this.

A while back I read a report about a Belgian couple travelling the same route as you, i.e. Lubumbashi to Kinshasa, in a 4x4. Here is the link It was a really good read but there is one thing I found very interesting. In their report, they described 95% of the people along the way to be very hostile, unfriendly and reluctant to help and saying things like "This is not your country go away, etc." You however seem to mostly have met friendly people. I read the whole thing and the couple appeared to me as being very decent and open-minded people so I don't understand this difference.

Obviously they were Belgian, but I don't think that was the source of this hostility as most of the people they met probably had no idea if they were Belgian, French etc.

Or what was your perception of the people you met along the route?

Anyway I just thought it a little interesting. But keep up the good work
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Old 11-30-2011, 11:14 PM   #177
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There is something compelling about this story. I go back and read and re-read the crossing of the congo that I find captivating. It was not at all what I expected, all that Savannah and narrow trails. I expected jugle and forest from what I had heard years ago.
Fascinating stuff.
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Old 12-01-2011, 02:41 AM   #178
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Nice report, great pictures!

Greetings from Abuja, if you pass here, let me know in case you need something
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Old 12-04-2011, 01:06 PM   #179
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While we're waiting...

Relevant: Video on the Lubumbashi to Bukama road
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Old 12-10-2011, 10:30 AM   #180
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Yep, but that was during the rains, so I'm not too surprised.. I've seen the holes that the trucks are making when they get stuck in mud: 2m deep, 10m long. The logs are still in there, embed solid in the dried up ground. I can imagine it takes a full day of hard work to get a truck out of there, easily.
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